Defra publishes plan to simplify UK environmental regulations

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

May 2012

A plan to simplify the Environmental Regulations has been published by The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Changes to the regulations include those covering responsibility obligations of WEEE, batteries and packaging producers and chemicals (REACH).

Released to the public in March, The ‘Red Tape Challenge – Environment Theme Proposals’, recommends improving 132 of the 255 current environmental regulations, leaving 70 regulations unchanged and repealing the remaining 53 regulations. The plan remains subject to further consultations over the next few months.

WEEE: Defra has proposed two solutions for EEE producers who claim that they have to finance WEEE management at higher costs than actual processing costs:

  • Giving producers a fixed minimum tonnage to finance, based on their market share, rather than having to take back any volume collected by local authorities and retailers;
  • Establishing a central allocation system for local authority sites to help the schemes fully align collections with their members’ obligations. WEEE collected by local authorities would be assigned to systems, eliminating the trading of WEEE evidence which has led to speculative pricing.

Further revisions to the WEEE regulations aim to:

  • Encourage the prioritisation of reuse of whole electrical appliances in preference to recycling the materials from them
  • Change various technical definitions relating to dangerous substances
  • Simplify the approval system for Producer Compliance Schemes
  • Simplify producer data reporting requirements

Batteries: In order to relieve the burden of battery-related producer responsibility obligations, Defra suggests:

  • Exempting more small businesses by raising the exemption threshold (e.g. raising the threshold from one to two tonnes would exempt an additional 10% of producers)
  • Removing the requirement for small distributors to take-back waste-batteries and simplifying record-keeping and reporting requirements.

Packaging: Defra has received comments about the administrative burdens of the packaging producer responsibility obligations, especially for SMEs. Defra says, as a tax scheme these regulations are outside the scope of the Red Tape Challenge. However, Defra held a stakeholder meeting to collect ideas for packaging aspects of the Red Tape Challenge: ideas included reducing the de minimis level or increasing it, and removing the manufacturers’ obligation and replacing it with a 40%:60% packer/fillers:retailers split.

REACH: The 2008 REACH Enforcement Regulations are to be merged and amended following concerns about the ability of larger companies to set unfair charges to SMEs for chemicals data required by REACH, especially as more SMEs will fall within REACH requirements in 2013 and 2018.

The objectives of the changes are to:

  • Provide clearer guidance on fair cost sharing, with costs divided on the basis of tonnage traded to lower costs for SMEs
  • Improve transparency so companies can see how the costs are broken down
  • Look into the potential need for mediation

thinkstep's WEEE, Batteries and Packaging Update Services will keep companies informed of changes in the Environmental Regulations and how these changes will impact WEEE, Batteries and Packaging producers in the UK.